| WILMINGTON, Del, July 16
WILMINGTON, Del, July 16 A Delaware judge
refused to choose which of two large pension funds would lead a
lawsuit against the board of Wal-Mart Stores Inc for
allegedly allowing bribery to flourish in Mexico.
The chief judge of Delaware's Court of Chancery, Leo Strine,
encouraged the public pension funds from California and New York
to investigate the allegations more thoroughly and find a way to
"More energy was spent by dueling plaintiffs over who gets
to be lead counsel and lead plaintiff than was spent writing the
complaints," Strine told a hearing on Monday.
The California State Teachers' Retirement System, or
CALSTRS, and New York City's public pension funds both sued
Wal-Mart's officers and board of directors for breaching their
fiduciary duty to both the company and shareholders.
Their lawsuits said the directors and officers failed to
properly handle claims of alleged bribery and apparently
attempted to cover up details of the issue. Both sought to be
named lead plaintiff, which would allow its lawyers to direct
the litigation on behalf of other plaintiffs.
The lawsuits seek damages for the harm caused to the
company. The lawsuits are derivative cases, meaning the
plaintiff is essentially stepping into the shoes of the company
and any recovery will be paid to Wal-Mart, rather than directly
At least nine lawsuits have been filed related to the
bribery accusations, which first came to light in an April 21
New York Times report which said that management at Wal-Mart de
Mexico, or Walmex, allegedly orchestrated payments
of $24 million to help it grow quickly in the last decade. The
report also said that Wal-Mart's top brass tried to cover it up.
Wal-Mart has said it is thoroughly investigating the matter.
The world's largest retailer also initiated a global review of
its anti-corruption compliance program in March 2011.
Strine criticized both funds for basing their lawsuits on a
newspaper report rather than conducting their own investigation.
He encouraged them both to come back to court after an
investigation was completed by union pension fund, the Indiana
Electrical Workers Pension Trust Fund IBEW, which has sued
Wal-Mart in the same Delaware court for access to its books and
Shares of Wal-Mart fell 20 cents on the New York Stock
Exchange on Monday to $72.98. Shares have risen about 16 percent
since the bribery allegations were published.